Meeting with local Jewish leaders, Republican Senate candidate Steve Lonegan praised the philanthropic sector, pledged support for Israel, and lambasted the Affordable Care Act.
In an Oct. 7 candidates’ forum on the Aidekman campus in Whippany sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest, the former mayor of Bogota said the United States should “support Bibi Netanyahu 100 percent” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Asked “How much time do you feel we can give sanctions and diplomacy to work,” Lonegan said promptly, “As much time as it takes to find out it doesn’t work.”
Lonegan fielded questions from community leaders in front of an audience of about 70 during a half-hour session, which was followed later by a similar forum for the Democratic candidate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
A day earlier, Lonegan presented similar messages to an audience at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, in a series, also sponsored by the CRC, that featured Booker on Sept. 29 (see NJJN, Oct. 3).
Saluting the notion of Jewish philanthropy, Lonegan said, “I believe in unlimited tax deductions for charitable giving. I believe organizations like yours are far more efficient at meeting the needs of those truly in need than government programs,” he said.
Asked how he would solve other problems in the Middle East, Lonegan said, “The best foreign policy is a strong military defense. Our best policy initiative in the Middle East is a very strong Israel.”
When asked about the federal government shutdown — by Janice Schindler of Mountain Lakes, cochair with Kenneth Rotter of Westfield of the CRC’s government affairs committee — Lonegan took the opportunity to criticize the Affordable Care Act.
“In this current government shutdown today, I believe that Obamacare is a train wreck,” he said. “I think it threatens the health care of senior citizens like my mother, who worked hard for her Medicare, and now that’s threatened. You are going to see a rationing of health care for seniors and a rationing of health care for women.”
Jacob Toporek, executive director of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, asked whether Lonegan would support extension of the Older American Act, which provides for social and nutrition services to the elderly and aging-in-place projects.
Lonegan said he is “not 100 percent familiar with all aspects of it” and “would not support a bill without reading it.”
He told Toby Shylit-Mack of Marlboro, incoming chair of the State Association, that he would prefer to spend homeland security funds on the “security of our borders, our airports, and institutions that are potential targets of terrorist attacks,” rather than on the National Security Agency’s “intrusion on your privacy and my privacy or to gather the phone records and e-mails of my mother.”
In a personal note, Lonegan said he became “a conservative with very much libertarian views” as a result of his becoming legally blind as a teenager. Lonegan contracted a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which causes severe vision impairment.
As a young man he stopped collecting disability benefits from Social Security after he began a small home-building business.
“Government is not the answer to our problems; government is the problem,” he said. “We need to give individuals the opportunity to grow and prosper that can come only from the private sector.”
Lonegan’s earlier talk at Temple B’nai Abraham was part of the synagogue’s Varied Voices Lecture series, a program established to honor the memory of Rabbi Barry Friedman, who served there as associate rabbi and then senior rabbi from 1968 to 1999.
Following the program, NJ Jewish News spoke with several high school students who take part in an afterschool leadership program run by The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life and had attended the Booker and Lonegan talks.
“I learned some things,” said Olimpia Kane of Morristown. The candidates “had interesting stances on Israel and Iran.”